Image by Kay Maeritz Getty Images
If you like tea, you should visit this organic and biodynamic tea estate; the factory is open to visitors. In-between the huge sorting and drying machines, and the fields of green bushes, you may run into the owner, tea guru and local character, Rajah Banerjee. Short visits are free, or you can opt for a plantation walk with tea plucking and tasting (per person ₹200 to ₹300, with lunch in a local homestay an additional ₹200 or so).
Mornings before 10am between mid-March and mid-November are the best time to see the production process. There's no picking on Sunday or processing on Monday. Horse riding and even canopy climbing are planned, and a spa resort is under construction.
The estate is 3km below Kurseong along Pankhabari Rd, and 1km below Cochrane Place. A taxi here costs ₹200, or it’s a pleasant downhill walk (it’s much steeper coming back so take a ₹20 shared taxi from Cochrane Place). En route, the lush, overgrown old graveyard at St Andrew's has poignant reminders of the tea-planter era.
Makaibari runs a homestay and volunteer program from a separate office 50m below the main entrance. Volunteers can find placements in teaching, health and community projects; for details, see www.volmakaibari.org. Ask for Nayan Lama. This is also the place to book a plantation walk.